Four-seat grand tourer bids to redefine performance in the luxury class
Model tested: 4S Diesel Price: £91,778 Power: 416bhp Torque: 627lb ft 0-60mph: 4.1sec 30-70mph in fourth: 4.9sec Fuel economy: 31.6mpg C02 emissions: 176g/km
By 2009 Porsche had well established the idea of its badge appearing on the prow of a five-door model. Seven years of the Cayenne had left an indelible mark on the brand; if the conditions were right, it was capable of anything, no matter what tradition had previously dictated.
Yet the appearance of a saloon was almost as controversial. Porsche had pondered the idea for decades, even creating an ill-fated 989 prototype in the late 1980s,but the idea was greeted as a misshapen spanner in the internal machinery of the worlds most renowned sports car maker.
The look didn’t help. The Panamera’s Porsche design cues were stretched to the limit of credibility and beyond. There were other flaws, too. But it was engineered like the Tirpitz and in the right spec could leap continents in mighty bounds. Its audience was dramatically smaller than that of the Cayenne, but it was chairman of the board-shaped and respectable. Helpfully, it suited China’s burgeoning back-seat luxury market to perfection.
The model was updated in 2013, but not to the point where it destroyed the opposition in the way the contemporary 911 managed.
This latest version, though,can claim a much more credible level of newness. It is bigger, reshaped, remodelled inside,overhauled in the chassis and endowed with Porsche’s latest engines and gearboxes.
After seven years, the Panamera no longer has to prove itself against the stigma of contentiousness; the mission now is to make Porsche’s idea of a four-seat GT seem unequivocally more appealing than BMW, Audi, Maserati, Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar have managed in the meantime.
The manufacturer has promised to redefine the performance benchmark in the luxury class. We chose the 4S Diesel with which to examine that claim.
DESIGN AND ENGINEERING 4.5/5
‘l’he Panamera’s existence no longer provokes raised eyebrows or deep sighs, but its appearance remains a debatable virtue. The ‘realignment’ Porsche describes may not leap from the page, but closer attention reveals a conscientious effort to edge the design closer to that of the 911.
At the back, where the roofline is 20mm lower than before, it gains a more recognisably Porsche ‘flyline’ profile, augmented by four-point brake lights and an LED strip linking them. Other proportional tweaks include a 30mm wheelbase extension and a reduced front overhang.
The Panamera sits on the MSB modular architecture developed by Porsche from within the Volkswagen Group. The platform’s versatility allows a long-wheelbase version to be built simultaneously at the same factory in Leipzig.
The body uses more aluminium than before, adding the body sides and roof to the aluminium door panels, bonnet, tailgate and front wings of the previous model. Ultra-high-strength, hot-formed steels are deployed elsewhere, most notably for the passenger cell.
The front double wishbone and rear multi-link suspension components are mostly aluminium too. Efforts to improve ride comfort include a hydraulically damped mount for the lower wishbone and new, lighter dampers in the standard Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) system, while the optional air suspension, fitted here, uses three-chamber springs with around 60% more volume for a far wider spread of spring rates.
All feed into Porsche’s 4D-Chassis Control system, which networks data from each individual sensor to make previously independent, reactive chassis functions part of an integrated response.
Alongside these changes, Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control Sport, Torque Vectoring Plus and rear-axle steering also feature. The latter is carried over from the 911 and allows a much more direct steering ratio than was previously permitted.
If that weren’t enough, the engine line-up is easily deserving of its own dedicated engineering section.
We’ve opted to test the 4S, the first Panamera to combine a V8 diesel and all-wheel drive, but we might have easily chosen to drive the 434bhp 2.9-litre V6 or the 542bhp twin-turbo 4.0 V8, both also being all-new.
The 4.0-litre diesel is the least powerful of the three, with 4l6bhp, but its claimed 627lb ft produced from l000rpm without the aid of electric turbochargers makes it far too intriguing to set aside for later.